Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Head Hunted

Work etc has been rather busy. Life etc has been rather busy. I am not holding up my own on the blogging front. But, winter draws near. There is hope.


I recently answered a head-hunting phone call: very intriguing.

Head-Hunter told me that someone had referred me to them - except the job they are recruiting for works from the corporate perspective and I am quite happily entrenched in the individual's perspective. They won't tell me who the referring someone is. And I'm curious. Very curious. Although I also wonder if they just look up people of my number of years "post qualification experience" (PQE) and then phone up. It's brave of them. Lucky I was feeling patient.

I've never been head-hunted before. It's an odd feeling.

Other odd phone calls I have received recently (these ones at home, rather than at work):

Oddity number 1
Phone rings.
Me:- Hello?
Ambulance Chaser:- Hi! Have you or anyone in your family had an accident in the last three years.
Me: No.
Ambulance Chaser:- Are you sure? Because we can -
Me: Yes. I'm sure.
Ambulance Chaser:- Oh okay. It's just that we -
Me: Thank you. Bye.

Oddity number 2
Phone rings.
Me: Hello?
Opportunist: Hi! We were wondering if, in the current economic climate, you needed assistance.
Me: Sorry?
Opportunist: Well, the current economic climate is not good for the average person.* We were wondering if you might need any help.
Me: Help? Um. No. Thanks.
Opportunist: Debt! Do you have debt?
Me: No.
Opportunist: Mortgage, loans, credit card debt?
Me: No.
Opportunist: Car loan? Home loan?
Me: No.
Opportunist: Really? No credit card debt? We could help you by -
Me: No. I have no debts.
Opportunist: Oh-kaay. [disbelievingly] Thanks anyway.
Me: No problems. Bye.


*I don't think I qualify as the average person. Or do I? I don't know.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A solo ride

I did a long(ish) solo cycle ride over the weekend. My first, ever. I've been on longer rides, but always with other people. I did my own navigating (a rare thing; see my last post).

These are my statistics of the event.

Kilometres travelled: 36.32
Miles travelled: 22.7
Time taken for the ride: Three hours (give or take).

Hills ascended: Three (oof).
Hills descended: wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Number of times I had to stop to check the map: At every juncture, um, maybe fifteen? Then, I checked the map obsessively during lunch.

Wrong turns taken: only one! Although, it was a biggie ... I turned right, instead of left, when leaving the Stately Home (see below) to cycle back home again. I realised after no more than a kilometre, so I was not well on the way to Scotland before I did an about face and cycled back past the little family of ramblers to whom I had just called out, "Hi there! Bike behind!" and to whom I now said, "Hi again! Silly cyclist coming back!" Mum and Dad grinned and kids waved.

Number of stupid cars who cut in front of me: One. Red. Driven by a blonde woman with a shoulder length bob. I'd recognise her again. Harrumph.

Number of nice drivers who shared the road with me: Lots. Yay them.

Number of steam-rollers passed: One, with me grinning a most amused grin, and the driver waving at me.

Amount of (rooibos) tea ingested: one thermos, or four cups.

Stately homes visited: One.
Regency dances viewed: Four.
Roses smelled: Seven (Pilgrim was best and Graham Thomas came a close second).
Time spent meandering around the Stately Home's grounds, having lunch, reading my book, drinking my thermos of tea, admiring the gardens, feeling jealous about the gardens, resisting buying a book from the second-hand book store nestled in the Stately Home's cellarium and contemplating whether I should cycle home soon because it might rain: Three and one half hours.

Punctures incurred: one
Punctures fixed: none
Spare carried: Thank goodness.
Tyre changed: YES!
Time spent considering whether I could fix the puncture, giving up and changing the inner tube instead: 45 minutes.

Offers of help declined: One

Times I considered catching the train home: Only once, initially, when I discovered where the puncture was on my inner tube (Right at the valve. Was that repairable? I had to phone a friend to double-check. The answer was no. My heart sunk.) But the train station was two miles from where I currently was, plus my home station is about two miles from home. That's pushing a bike a total of four, painstakingly slow, miles. I thought I'd rather spend ages trying to change the tyre before giving up to catch the train. But no! I am competent at practical things.

Number of nice old people who offered me their soap and water to wash my mucky hands: Two. And the old dude apologised for not offering to help because I "looked very professional changing the tyre". I beamed. And the old lady said,"He would not have been any good, love" and winked. Bless. I did not ask why they were carrying soap to visit a Stately Home (Gift horse. Mouth. Don't Look.)

Number of children who stood around giggling at my attempts to change my inner tube: Six. Go away children! You're not making it any easier.
Number of children who leapt about me and my bike and my worldly possessions (novel, check; beanie, check; thermos, check; emergency chocolate, check) scattered on the lawn: Two (but it felt like twenty). I discovered my puncture in the parking lot of the Stately Home, just prior to my homeward cycle, hence the abundance of people.

Number of trout in stream: One! Large! Spotty!

Photographs taken: None. I had no space to carry the Fuji camera (and my partner had the Ricoh) - I really need a pannier rack and pannier bags, but, because I am vertically challenged (who you callin' short, huh?), I cannot fit a pannier rack onto my bike (the seat is not high enough and a pannier rack attaches to the wheel nuts as well as to the joist thing holding the seat up.). My, there sure were a lot of qualifying clauses in that last sentence. I'm working on raising my seat, but I currently have the seat at just the height when, if I am at a stop, I am on my very tippiest of tippy-toes to hold steady, and even so, I regularly tumble. Gracefully, of course.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Got the Post-Holiday Blues

Stockholm was incredibly relaxing. As was our long hike inside the Arctic Circle. I came back feeling refreshed and like I really had a proper holiday. Probably not everyone's idea of a holiday - hiking through thoroughly breathtaking landscape, all I need in a rucksack on my back (my pack weighed between 11 kg and 13 kg most days, my partner's between 13 kg and 17 kg) and eating cous-cous and noodles every night.

I find walking / hiking / tramping , especially in difficult terrain, very meditative. I am inside the moment of walking, of picking up one foot, and placing it down again, of ensuring each foot is placed solidly. Glimpses of flowers distract me, but the most profound of my thoughts is, "Oh, that flower is so pretty (or cute or blue, whichever is most appropriate)".

In one patch, we walked for approximately five kilometres over uneven stony ground. It could have been moraine, except that I think moraine involves bigger rocks. These rocks ranged in size but the average size was a square foot. For most of the walk over these rocks, I watched where I placed my foot, ensuring also that I did not place a foot onto the middle of a rock too often, as that would cause a slow ache to develop in my arches. I know this from previous walks, where I have been neglectful of my arches, plonking them unthinkingly on rock after rock, only to find myself in perplexed discomfit weeks later. It seems like the best thing to do is put a whole foot on a rock. No, the best thing to do is balance toes and heel between two rocks. Or, at least, mix up the toes-heel balance with whole-foot placement. I concentrated on my walk.

As a fleeting thought crossed my mind - "Ha! This is perfect ankle sprain territory" - I looked up to make the observation to partner, and stumbled. Only a little stumble. Not one he even noticed, lost as he was in his own fugue of rock-walking concentration. Thereafter I resolutely tried not to think about spraining my ankle, right in the middle point of the walk - the point where going forward to its conclusion involves as much distance as going back to the start.

We were the few - perhaps the only, ever - Australians on the walk. We met a pair of Swedish walkers who, after my "Hej" and smile, launched into rather a lot of Swedish. All I had learnt (bad, bad me) was "Hej" (Hello) and "Tack" (Thank you). I kept saying "tack" like the German "tag". I have a few accents that I do: Italian (thanks, Latin!) and German (in which I can fluently say, I am hungry: "ich haben hunger". I practised that long and hard because it contains all the guttural Germanic sounds that I find so difficult to make). And whenever I am somewhere that does not speak English as the main language, I have a strange, barely suppressible desire to say, "minasan, suate kudasai" ("everyone, please sit down", in Japanese).

When I smiled and apologised for not speaking Swedish, one of the walkers repeated what he had said, but this time in German. Then he apologised, in English, and repeated what he had said in Swedish and German, in English. What had he said? How are you? Then he apologised that he did not know very much English. Then, in English, he went into great detail about the walk that they had done. Then, we had a conversation in English. His English was great, but he kept apologising for it, leaving me no space in which to apologise for my lack of Swedish; my oversight was more culpable, I thought, than his non-native-but-otherwise-perfect-English.

Foolishly, he asked me which direction we came from. I am not good with compass direction points. My partner was not then present, on a brief exploration of our rest area. So I told we had come from our last landmark, Tjakta Pass. He told me he had come from the west. I don't think either of us really understood each other - he failed to understand me because I mispronounced Tjakta (he later identified it and said something entirely different to what I had said) and I failed to understand him because I did not know which way west was. Still, we were both just talking for the sake of talking to someone other than our respective walking partners. I further confused him by announcing that our next destination was Salkastugorna - when we were already there. I am not the navigator. My partner is. I am absolved of all responsibility.

Me and Our Tent: Taking in the sights at one of our campsites.
I have no idea which one, or why I am not doing something useful.

Since being back, over a month now, work has made a quick meal of that mellow refreshed feeling one gets from a great holiday. Now, I'm all wound up again. Everything is very busy. I am still chasing my tail post holiday. My tail gets longer, but I get no closer. I do know which direction I'm going though: round and round.

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